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Russia’s Middle East Brinkmanship vs. Acquiescence to Trump’s Greater Israel Plan

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Written by Alastair Crooke; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

Secretary of State Pompeo was in Sochi on 14 May for talks with his counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. And in his opening address, Lavrov observed: “I believe it’s time to start building a new, more responsible and constructive matrix of how we see each other. We are ready to do so, of course, if our US partners are interested in doing so as well … The fact that we are meeting for the second time in the past two weeks inspires certain optimism. Let’s give it a try and see what happens”.

Russia’s Middle East Brinkmanship vs. Acquiescence to Trump’s Greater Israel Plan

President Putin subsequently hosted Pompeo for a short discussion, noting: “I got the impression that the President [Trump] is in favour of restoring Russia-US ties and contacts – and of resolving issues of mutual interest. For our part, we have said many times, that we would also like to restore relations on a full scale”.

It is clear that Mr Putin’s impression of a US possible apertura arose from Trump’s call to him on 3 May, in which co-operation on assuring ‘strategic stability’ was discussed. The remarks by both Lavrov and Putin indicate both a readiness and a generosity (i.e. calling the US Administration “our US partners”) that is a mite surprising, given the extent to which Washington has been inserting its spanners into all, and everything, Moscow recently has tried to do.

Why this Trump initiative – managed by two foremost US war hawks – precisely now? Ok, the Mueller investigation is closed, but Moscow will not be naïve enough to imagine that this draws a line under the Russian malign intervention narrative. Mueller has simply gifted the claim to Congress.

In one sense, Moscow’s warmth may be a surprise, but in another, it is not. America has viewed Russia as a ‘forever’ adversary, ever since Britain and America facilitated the return of Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin to the Bolshevik Revolutionaries, in order to disrupt Russia. And even as Trump was calling Putin, the Rand Corporation was releasing its paper, ‘Overextending and Unbalancing Russia’ which outlines specific “geo-political cost-imposing” policy options. Any shift by America from this belligerency, of course would be significant, and would warrant exploration. President Putin repeatedly has warned of the unthinkable consequences for humanity, should these two states decisively enter into conflict. This is the existential threat par excellence.

But what are Trump, Pompeo and Bolton up to? Co-operation on “strategic stability”? Where are the prime risks of strategic instability? Two immediately come to mind: the financial and trade war with China and Iran.

And though Mr Lavrov was cautiously positive – ‘let’s give it a try’ – he must know only too well that the chances are not great, and the forces opposing any rapprochement with Russia at all, are many. But nonetheless, these comments from Russia’s leaders imply that they are taking this initiative seriously.

More to the point, however, even the attempt to ‘give it a try’ may prove to be a poison chalice for Russia – at least in the Middle East. This is not to say that President Trump is proposing ties in order to trap Russia. His long-standing interest in restored relations with Russia are very plain. Nor is it to say that Moscow is being cynical: Mr Putin’s equally longstanding efforts at balancing between the westward and eastward ‘tacks’ of the Russian cultural ‘persona’, as much as his concern about the dangers from the collapse of arms limitation accords, are well known.

No, the risk arises rather, from the delicate balance that is the Middle East today. The region stands at a crucial juncture: the pendulum of power has shifted northwards, as a result of Syria’s defeat of the ‘Wahhabist’ campaign against it. Syria, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon now are both mobilised and energised. And there is something of a common thread of political understanding now linking these states, too. By contrast, Syria’s Gulf adversaries are enervated, weakened, and mired in their own internal crises.

Yet this new balance of power is not consolidated. It has not yet been stabilised. Rather, it is finely poised. Events could tip it in a number of different directions. The point here, is that Russia finds itself at the pivot of events – like it, or not.

The two events with the potential to be the first dominos, are Team Trump’s determination to realise Greater Israel, and connected to that, Russia’s stand toward Syria and Iran as the Trump’s plan for the Middle East unfolds.

Is this – on Iran and Syria, but principally on the push for Greater Israel – what Trump is looking to President Putin for help? Lavrov said during the Pompeo visit that the Iran issue – in heroic understatement – “is complicated”. Military historian Andrew Bacevich points out however, that it was Trump “who chose to make antipathy to Iran the centerpiece of his foreign policy. Trump could not extricate the US from the region, while simultaneously pursuing a more aggressive anti-Iranian policy than his predecessor. The pursuit of that anti-Iranian policy has had a great deal to do with the failure to bring US involvement in multiple unnecessary wars to an end. This was not something foisted on him by others, but has been his own doing from the beginning. When his subordinates disagreed with him about the nuclear deal as Tillerson and McMaster did, he replaced them sooner or later, and he chose even more bellicose and aggressive people to take their place. He has signed off on every aggressive anti-Iranian and pro-Saudi move he could”.

Is this what is going on? Trump wants Putin to act as policeman on Syria and Iran, so that he can unfold his grand peace plan: “”Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States,” Trump tweeted in August 2018: “I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”.

Is this it? He wants the fall-out from his unremittingly belligerent hostility to Iran (viewed as principal obstacle to the realization of Greater Israel) to be contained, so that he can bring US involvement in unnecessary wars to an end – as an empowered and stabilized Greater Israel and Russia together take over the heavy lifting of stabilizing the Middle East? It looks very much that way, with news of a new strategic summit between Israel, the US and Russia being instantiated, to manage “regional security”.

The ‘Deal of the Century’ may well be delayed on account of new elections to be held in Israel in September, but in fact, components of the ‘Deal’ structure (the Jerusalem Embassy move; Golan sovereignty for Israel; the cuts to UNWRA; annexation of settlements, etcetera) are being unfolded, piece-by-piece as ‘facts’, even as the grand ‘blueprint’ remains unpublished – if it was intended ever to be published, that is.

Plainly, Russia wants to see a political settlement for Syria soon, and Moscow says it has noted something of a change in western rhetoric on Syria. Yet, a premature push on the Syrian government to accept unpalatable terms either coming from Turkey, in favour of a weighty participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Constitutional Council, or from the West for the easing out President Assad, may lead to a rupture of Syrian confidence in Moscow. Some in Moscow might consider this a lesser consideration in the bigger strategic balance, yet a bad breach with Damascus could threaten Moscow’s standing across a much wider regional constituency.

And Bacevich’s warning is very pertinent here: Trump precisely is unable to co-operate with Moscow over Syria because of his obsession with Iran – and his wedding to Saudi Arabia.

And if a Syria resolution is stalled – amidst an ongoing US escalation against Iran; US threats against Baghdad; and US efforts to divide and to set the Lebanese against each other – further complications for Moscow are certain. Why should Moscow want this?

After the Sochi meet, Lavrov said, “As far as Iran and the [nuclear deal] are concerned, I hope that wisdom will ultimately prevail … When I say we hope to find a political solution to the situation around Iran, we’ll work to ensure the situation doesn’t slip into a military scenario. I sensed the US party, too, has a mood to be seeking a political solution …”. But then, the next day, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, specifically denied that Pompeo had assured Moscow that the United States did not seek war with Iran, adding (strangely) that Moscow was “saddened to see the decisions taken by the Iranian side”. This latter being a reference to Iran’s decision to disregard certain elements of the JCPOA (short of withdrawal), provoked deliberately by Pompeo’s cancelled waivers in respect to the proliferation requirements of the JCPOA.

The problem here is that all these ‘additional complications’ which Lavrov noted, are not separate and discrete. They are directly linked to the ‘Greater Israel’ project of President Trump.

Greater Israel is not just about shifting Palestinians around and exchanging real estate, plus a few minor frontier adjustments. It is not some delimited institutional project that needs to ‘breath out’, as it were, and to occupy a bigger space. It is much more than this: Greater Israel was always a biblical project to actualise progress towards Israel’s redemptive destiny, and was also always a Judeo-Christian ideological project. If it were neither, Trump’s Evangelical base would not be making such a fuss for Trump to achieve the biblical Greater Israel. There is a close synergy between Israeli Zionists and American Christian Zionists on this point.

All those ‘added complications’ facing Russia go back to this latter point: Greater Israel is a meta project that must succeed in the Evangelical view. Any opposition to it must be vitiated, which means, first and foremost, dismantling Iranian opposition (and Syria’s longstanding resistance). It was the US Evangelicals, as well as Netanyahu, who pushed Trump to quit the JCPOA.

And, should the meta-project take wing, the US thinking is that the Kurds can be used to help fracture Turkey, Syria and Iran. Lebanon can be enmeshed in endless border wrangles, Syria can be divided into East and West; Iraq sanctioned; and Iran destabilised and subject to secessionist movements. These disruptions will allow the ‘Project’ (the ‘Deal’) the space to breathe more deeply (not just in physical space, but in ideological-metaphysical ‘space’ as well), and to achieve stability and traction.

Why was Pompeo in Sochi? Well, Trump long has been explicit. He wants a help from Putin for WORLD PEACE, nothing less (Trump’s capitalisation). That is to say, Trump wants Russia’s acquiescence to the Greater Israel project, and its active help in containing reaction.

This is real brinkmanship for Moscow. Yes, it wants to re-establish strategic relations with the US, but the price of siding with the US, Israeli and Christian Zionists will be heavy. It will lose friends and allies, and yet may be still unable to halt a slide toward regional conflict. In which case, on whose side will Russia be? Putin evidently does not want to clash with the US. Russia is an able mediator. But we are talking here of a major civilizational clash: the Judeo-Christian sense of its own ‘election’; of its biblical destiny and mission – versus the Middle East’s own thread of ancient civilisation.

Russia could find itself on the wrong side of history. And how would this consorting with the US and Israel be viewed in Beijing? Might Xi worry that the next US ‘ask’ would be to take the US’ side, against China?

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  • Rob

    America always play tricks to attract one for easy pray of another. Putin should stick with China and with rigional countries and avoid America and their diplomats for their own survival and for peace in the world.

    Putin should reverse America, NATO and Israel expansion which is possible.

    • FlorianGeyer

      America does not possess professional diplomats.

      America only possesses professional liars.

      • Rob

        This is absolutely true.

  • d’Artagnan

    Considering the US and west’s perpetual hostility towards Russia since pre-USSR era, it would be naive to trust anything floated by the US or its Zionist overlords. Sacrificing Russia’s long term strategic interests in favor of mere 6 million Zionists is not much of a bargain at the expense of two billion Arabs and Muslims. Zionist atrocities are even alienating most of the non-Muslim world as well, as growing BDS and calls to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes grow with each Zionist atrocity against Palestinians and Arabs.The historical prognosis is that so-called “Israel” is simply demographically and politically untenable, much like the other overtly disdainful supremacist racist ideologues like Nazism and Apartheid.

    • BMWA1

      And UK has been anti-Eussia since Palmerston!

      • Zionism = EVIL

        Limey gits are racist and think that every Eurasian can be treated like a head bobbing Indian Hindu coolie. They have a thing coming from Russia, China and Iran.

        • FlorianGeyer

          The amusing part is that the UK is fast becoming a nation of coolies for their zionist masters :)

  • Rhodium 10

    The cold war was Capitalism vs Communism…the new cold war is basically an economic war..USA vs Russia&China…the first one seek the supremacy of US petrodollar( currency without back up and fiduciary) and the machine to print dollars which owners are Jews bank of the federal reserve….the second one seek to prop up the Euro-Asian axis based on a productive economy!.. and therefore currencies of countries with many natural resources would have more value!…thats why BRICS and the support of Venezuela, some African countries and Iran..among the reasons that indicates Russia&China direction!

  • Zionism = EVIL

    Jew scum are out to destroy Russia and loot its resources, and in any case most of the AskkeNAZI savages in Occupied Palestine are overnight dollar Jews from 1991.

    • FlorianGeyer

      Its is only the theft by the Zionists of the vast naturel resource of Russia that can stop the increasing fall of the US military empire, and with that the rabid state of Israel that uses the US military as her proxy terrorist stormtroopers.

  • zman

    This has to be the best article on the real situation in the middle east that I have read. Every point Mr. Crooke makes is on point. In the end, he is also dead center on the result of placating Washington (Zionists). ANY deal with the US along any lines will be a Trojan Horse…for Greater Israel (and it’s abomination, the US) will then set it’s sites on Russia, either through heightened terrorism or political subjugation. There is no such thing as live and let live when it comes to world domination…the end goal. Sooner or later, Russia may have to take a more solid position, even to the brink of war.

  • Papo Machete

    i have always said that if Russia were really serious in Syria hundreds of thousands lives would have been saved and the destruction of Syrian infrastructure much much less.Al pan pan y al vino vino ,,;Sure we can not overlook probably they avoid the collapse of the Syrian state and their presence have been important but in my view is like they are playing both sides, They (russian gov) have had countless meetings with zionazis ,turks and even the Saudis, either no one respect the “russians” or they are part of the problem ,clearly the evil arm of imperialism keep flooding the country with their wahabist terrorism,The S-300(400) have not fullfill their purpose in any way having israhell bombing Syria in the daily basis .I tell you ,the Syrian arab army deserve all the credit in the world ,they desrve real loyal allies, not one with one boot in and one boot out ,they should be 100% in or 100%out ,Stop prolonging the suffering of the Syrian people, If Turkey brake agrrements and continue their dirty tricks it SHOULD HAVE CONSEQUENCES ,the same specially with Saudis and Israhell-is .I think in the homeland the Russian gov is as bad as ours ,they do not give a fuck about their own citizens,I believe it should be a balance of power,global order would just make humanity a disgrace where women should no longer have babies because they will be just pawns/ 21st century slavery

  • 1691

    No news here, not even a proper opinion. This has been munched for donkeys years. Does Mr Crook believe that just because Pompeo went to Sochi in May 2019, just because Trump may meet or not Putin at the next G20, just because bibi is struggling and kushner has to delay delivery of ” the deal of the century” which has been rejected already by the party involved, Russia will suddenly tune in to their madness? Really? Common Mr Crook, the old song “divide and conquer’ is so popular that Russia and China are going to skip it. Your article comes at the time when Russia and China announced their plan for the century. I find this deliberate. Well, this time it is the usa and israhell on the wrong side of history.

    And … ” Greater Israel was always a biblical project to actualise progress towards Israel’s redemptive destiny, and was also always a Judeo-Christian ideological project.” Nonsense. It is a lie!!!

  • Lazy Gamer

    Russia is not weak like Mexico. Lol As long as the US aims for dominance, we can expect resistance from these sovereign countries. Which is great for the rest of us. However, once the US decides on some level of multi polarity, then i fear that these principled stands of Russia might be abandoned.

  • RichardD

    Cook is obviously a knowledgeable and experienced diplomat and politician who understands the Jew problem. What he doesn’t address is that the Jews want to do to Russia and China. What he recognizes that they want to do with the Kurds to Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

    • LR captain

      its so sad the that European jews that occupy Palestinian have even less herbrew DNA in them than Hezbollah.

      these people should be in jail. their grandfathers claiming ww2 German apology benefit payments living lives of comfort off the western taxes payers. The soviets put the jews they liberated to work rebuilding eastern Europe through hard labor.

      Besides was stopping to an average con man from claiming he was Jewish to claim those benefits in 1945. that was my point.

      • Gary Sellars

        Jail? No. Grave? YES.

        • LR captain

          remove your comment as it is people the like you that allow Zionist pigs to justify their actions. (we are only defending ourselves from those who want to kill us rhetoric)

          besides once Palestine is liberated having the Jews being made to rebuild a country that they seems for fitting.

          • Gary Sellars

            IMHO the Zios are murdering bastards who are deserving of receiving their own treatment back at them, with lashings of compound interest. Not just becuase of what they have done to the Palestinains, or Arabs in general, but to millions of Russian slavs persecuted by the Jewish Bolshies and led to an early grave.

            Everyone dies. Some however deserve to achieve their final state in a much shorter timerscale than do others.

          • LR captain

            and some should be forced to rebuild what they destroy.

  • S Melanson

    The article repeatedly mentions a greater Israel project. The author tries to define what this project represents but succeeds only in confusing matters. Israel is not intent on expanding its territory to encompass land that is the home of 100 million Arabs. Israel is not capable of this and has problems enough with the territory it occupies currently.

    The occupied territories serve the purpose of making Israel a defensible state by adding strategic depth, shortening the defensive perimeter and using natural defensive features such as the Jordan River and the rough hilly terrain of the Golan Heights. The Litani River in Southern Lebanon has been an objective to complete a strong defensive perimeter but this project has gone rather badly. Other than Southern Lebanon, Israel has not tried to seize and hold any significant new territory since 1967 and in fact, relinquished the Sinai to Egypt as per the Camp David Accord signed in 1978.

    The Israeli obsession with national security, to some degree understandable, involves several objectives. First is a strong Israel – military, technology, highly trained, aggressive policy to take the battle into enemy territory given Israel is so small a country. This is the Ben Gurion Doctrine that since the 1950’s has guided Israeli foreign policy to this very day.

    There is another objective though. To keep the enemies of Israel weak and divided. This puts Israel into the offensive branch of Realism in International Relations theory. This includes preventing regional powers from developing nuclear weapons and hence the bombing of nuclear reactors. Prevention of enemies obtaining or developing advanced weaponry and technologies. Inciting internal divisions in nations to weaken them is also active policy and Syria is an example.

    Israel wants to keep its enemies weak so they do not pose a threat. It is not the intent to occupy territory unless doing so enhances defensibility of the State of Israel without absorbing a large Arab population. Israeli policy is to maintain the state as a national homeland for the Jewish people and maintain Jews as the majority population. Absorbing large Arab populations through annexation of territory will be avoided given that the West Bank is problematic enough and last thing wanted is to take on more problems.

    • Douglas Houck

      I think you misunderstand the Greater Israeli Project that Mr. Crooke references. It is not about taking land from 100 million Arabs. It is in this context President Trump’s “The Deal of the Century”. In this meaning, Mr. Crooke is correct in its use and implications, nor is he the first person to link the two together. Ms. Jansen wrote an opinion piece in the Jordan Times last year titled, “‘Deal of the century’ committed to realisation of ‘Greater Israel’ project”. See: http://www.jordantimes.com/opinion/michael-jansen/%E2%80%98deal-century%E2%80%99-committed-realisation-%E2%80%98greater-israel%E2%80%99-project

      Mr. Crooke is stating that the Deal of the Century is so radical in that it eliminates the possibility of a Palestinian State, that is needs time to breathe, not only “… in physical space, but in ideological-metaphysical ‘space’ as well), and to achieve stability and traction.”.

      Mr. Crooke is also correct in the link between the American Christian Zionists and the Israeli Zionists, including it’s religious elements.

      It is nice to see that you agree that Isreal was behind and actively supported the jihadists in the Syrian War as a form of destablization.

      I also disagree with your last statement. Peace is not possible now as the Israelis are simply against it, both now and in the past. Both Eygpt and Jordan have kept the peace mostly because they have few options and have been bought off by the US with their annual stipends.

      • S Melanson

        The words used are important. Greater Israel not Greater Israeli Project. The Greater Israel terminology implies in the readers mind annexation of territory viewed as historically Jewish much like Greater Germany annexed territory that was viewed as German to reestablish her once greatness before WWI.

        Debates on this tend to debunk as fringe or extreme positions such as the Yinon Plan. What you describe I fully agree with that the West Bank Project is ethnically cleanse the territory of Arabs (Palestinians) to prepare for eventual annexation. The Golan was annexed due to low Arab population and the Druse that live in the area are tolerated. But this is about the Ben Gurion Doctrine to achieve a defensible state and the Jewish Nation State Project (Zionism) that requires majority Jewish population to maintain state identity as Jewish.

        The greater Israel Project is associated with the above points but goes further to notions of Jews as the chosen people deserving mastery over the world and land that includes most of the ME. This is bad fiction. I have been highly critical of Israeli policies in my comments such as my view the blockade of Gaza is not a case of Israel defending itself but is an act of war justifying Palestinian resistance.

        But I think use of a phrase that is not supported by evidence in the sense most see it is a poor choice even if intended as having a different meaning. Anti-semitic memes are powerful and the associations work on the readers subconscious level that colours their thinking. Criticism of Israel does not require use of dubious memes, Israel’s track record provides plenty as it is for debate.

        I also caution against shutting down any defence of Israel with the object to reduce debate to criticism only. This accomplishes only one thing and that is polarized views such as a belief Israel cannot make peace. If Israel was against peace now and in the past, it would not matter Egypt was willing to make peace, so how was peace attained? I agree that Israeli’s have hardened their views and pessimistic about peace being possible but that was the point of my statement – peace between Egypt and Israel was at the time thought impossible. And so, if the impossible is possible then it can be so once again.

        • 1691

          The way the events unfold brings us to believe that it is all about the greater israhellis’ project. Yes, it is a project and what we face now is its failure, yes, it is almost a failed project. However! The rothschild &co, namely the bildenberg club does not give a penny about israhell. It is about global dominance, namely colonizing the whole world. They can only achieve this step by step. The ME “civil” wars are nothing but steps towards total global control of wealth with centers in London, New York and Hell aviv. USA as well as Europe have been colonized already. Africa is an easy pie. Australia joint the club decades ago. So, it is only Assia that happens to be a hard nut to crack and parts of South America. The jews will be thrown under the bus in order to justify the conquering of the ME. The victory over the “rebels” is nothing but a victory against the 1% rich who are trying to put us all in the frame of modern times slaves. This is basically what Russia and China, plus other brave countries object to and fight against. The rest is a fairy tale for idiots.

          • S Melanson

            Agreed that indirect control are levers actively sought by Israel and this is failing. But greater Israel as in territorial expansion is a myth and distraction from the real methods used for control. Israeli influence over US foreign policy it at its zenith but at the same time the US is declining and it’s hegemonic grip being successfully challenged and this spells trouble for Israel’s long term plans.

      • S Melanson

        I thought I would mention that I have read many of your posts which I have found high quality and I look forward to more commentary from you.

        • Douglas Houck

          How can I not be humbled by your kind comment. Thanks.

      • Zionism = EVIL

        Sadat sold out the Arabs for a pittance and now Sisi has gone a disgraceful step further.

  • Douglas Houck

    Great article and interesting comments. Better than usual.

    I’ve always found Mr. Crooke, (will people please get his name correct, as it’s a basic courtesy), insights to the Middle East to be some of the best. In most recent articles on Russia and Iran on these and other like news sites, the author hails the tight bond betweent the two countries and references the strategic economic link with China’s BRI (think of Pepe Escobar). What is being noted by this article and some others is the bond is not that tight. Russia and Iran’s national interests have a few common elements (fighting jihadists) but not much else, especially when it comes to Israel.

    See: “How Russia plays Iran and the US in order to keep its geopolitical edge.”
    https://www.businessinsider.com/russia-plays-iran-and-us-to-keep-its-geopolitical-edge-2019-6

    or these recent ones in Haaretz:

    “Russia, the United States and Israel are uniting against Iran, making it clear to Bashar Assad who will determine the future of the region”.
    https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/iran/.premium-there-s-a-new-alliance-in-the-middle-east-syria-iran-russia-israel-u-s-1.7340317

    “On Iran, Putin Has a Price. Can the U.S. and Israel Pay It?”
    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-what-price-will-the-u-s-and-israel-pay-russia-for-pushing-iran-out-of-syria-1.7334350

    Mr. Crooke is simply voicing his angst (rightfully so), and making the opinion that if Russia backs the US and Israel on the implementation of the “Greatest Deal of the Century”, it will result in a number of adverse reactions. So, the ball is in Russia’s court. How does President Putin see the national interests of Russia as regards Iran and Israel?

  • Gary Sellars

    Give those Murican cunts NOTHING….

  • chris chuba

    WORLD PEACE cannot be achieved by unilateral acts of aggression against a country that has not done anything that merits an acts of war against it. Destroying Iran will result in instability that will make the destruction of Iraq look like Grenada.